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Making a pledge

"Making a pledge" Continued...

Issue: "On the rails," Oct. 9, 2010

In the days before the vote, President Obama's choice to head the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, testified before a Senate committee that changing the policy on gays would hurt military morale and hinder combat efforts in Afghanistan. In the end, senators backed the general over pop star Lady Gaga, who headlined a Maine event supporting the repeal a day before the vote. "Our new law is called, 'If you don't like it, go home,'" Gaga told the crowd.

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apparently doesn't realize that if everyone with traditional values leaves the military, virtually no one will be left to defend our country. Certainly not Lady Gaga," said the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins.

Tucked in the bill also was legislation called the Dream Act, which would have allowed children of illegal immigrants to access federal loans to attend college and put them on a path to citizenship if they enroll in college or join the military. The legislation became a political football in the tight Nevada Senate race-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put the measure in the defense bill partly as a way to reach out to Hispanic voters in his state. His Republican challenger, Sharron Angle, called the measure a "form of amnesty." Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, voiced his support for the bill, even though he told The Washington Post that the motivation for passing it "may be political."

Eager to leave

Back at the House side of the Capitol, while Republicans rolled out legislative proposals, Democrats have been taking the opposite tack: Already having to defend costly bailouts and stimulus packages as well as controversial healthcare and climate-change votes, some House Democrats are pushing for an early adjournment so they can go home to try to keep their jobs. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., confirmed reports that the House might close shop early this year.

The House hasn't adjourned before Sept. 30 in an election year since 1960. And it is in danger of leaving before passing either annual appropriations bills to fund the government or an annual budget blueprint.

With the expiring 2001 Bush tax cuts the only major item left on the agenda, discussing possible tax hikes is the last thing vulnerable Democrats want to vote on this close to facing voters. But heading home has its risks, too: Democrats may be more reluctant after seeing what happened to Obama at a Sept. 20 town hall meeting in Philadelphia. There Obama supporter Velma Hart gave the president a taste of frustration the likes of which he probably rarely faced in his 2008 campaign rallies.

"Quite frankly, I'm exhausted," began the African-American veteran who now works as a financial officer. "I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now. I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I'm one of those people. And I'm waiting, sir. I'm waiting. I don't feel it yet. Is this my new reality?"

It was a quiet summer for town halls compared to last year's furor over the healthcare overhaul. But if Obama's encounter is any indication, it may not be such a serene fall for lawmakers.

Picking Pence

The Tea Party has so dominated the political agenda that even the Family Research Council's annual Value Voters Summit focused on "values" like liberty and constitutionalism. In that way, the mid-September event for social conservatives embraced a movement that is not on its face socially conservative. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich railed against the Washington establishment. But in the presidential straw poll at the conference, attendees picked an incumbent-social conservative Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana.
-Emily Belz contributed to this report

GOP Pledge to America

  • Permanently extend all the Bush tax cuts and introduce a 20 percent small business tax deduction
  • Repeal and replace healthcare law with medical liability reform and allow for the purchase of insurance policies across state lines
  • Cancel the remaining expenditures in the stimulus program
  • Return domestic appropriations to 2008 levels
  • Freeze federal hiring for non-security jobs
  • Phase out government control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
  • New sanctions on Iran and more money for missile defense
  • Permanently end the TARP program
  • A cap on discretionary spending
Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee is WORLD's Washington Bureau chief. As a reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, he was embedded with a National Guard unit in Iraq. He also once worked in the press office of Sen. Lamar Alexander.

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